Round 7 Action
Sheffield played host to the AFL Central and Northern England’s second ever League Lightning Round. Played at Mosborough Miners Welfare Club, the day went perfectly (apart from some inclement weather) and was a credit to the Sheffield Thunder and all involved with the club.
With the use of only one field it meant that there was a huge crowd for all seven games, creating an electric atmosphere and giving all the clubs a good chance to assess the opposition.
Quite appropriately Sheffield were the team of the day with two stirring victories which moved them into third place on the AFL CNE ladder.
Manchester and Nottingham both continued on their winning ways, while Wolverhampton won one of their two games to hold onto fourth place.
What had the potential to be a nightmare of a day for the Bears turned out to be quite a positive one. Drawn to play league leaders Manchester and Nottingham, and coming into the day with a small squad, Birmingham could have been excused for putting in a poor showing.
Coming up against the might of Manchester in the first game Birmingham had a quiet first half. In the second half they blew the game open with 6 goals. The Bears ended up going down by 25 points but won a lot of respect for their competitive performance.
In their second game the Bears shot out of the blocks early and took a 1 goal lead into half time against Nottingham. They faded though in the second half, giving the Scorpions a tight 2 goal victory. Birmingham will be ruing the fadeout but now know they can match it with any team in the competition.
Birmingham are still in the hunt for the finals but cannot drop a game from here on in given they have the bye in Round 9.
Like Birmingham, Huddersfield came into the day with two very tough games. The first game against Nottingham was all one-way traffic with the experience Scorpions midfield giving their forwards a constant supply of quality ball. The Rams went down by 70 points and were looking forward to a better performance against Sheffield.
It was just the Rams’ luck to take on a Thunder team full of confidence after their first-up win. Huddersfield put in a better performance kicking five goals for the game. Still the Thunder got up by ten goals.
Despite the poor showing, Huddersfield will still be confident of making the finals with all winnable games in the last three rounds.
It was a difficult day for Leeds, and with only a handful of players available on the day they were always going to struggle. Using a mix of borrowed players in both games the team lacked the coherency of the other clubs which made it difficult for them to put in a solid performance. The Minotaurs lost their first game to Sheffield and put on a much more respectable display in the second game, going down by five goals to Wolverhampton.
When Leeds have a full squad they are one of the best teams in the comp. If they can get a full team together for the final rounds they are still in with a shot at the last finals berth.
The Mosquitoes had a much more challenging game against Birmingham than many would have predicted. It was a hard-hitting opening game but Manchester still took the points which kept their perfect record intact.
The scare in the first game worked to Manchester’s favour as they came out all with guns blazing against Wolverhampton. The Wolves got off the mark quickly, but after their brilliant opening goal they never got near the Mozzies. Manchester played some of the most exciting football seen this year and produced an even team performance that capped off a satisfying day for the club.
The Scorpions were expected to win both games easily and came out against Huddersfield and did just that. A 9-goal opening quarter against a potentially finals-bound team was very impressive.
In their second game the Scorpions survive a scare against the Bears to win a tight match.
With Kraefft dominating in the ruck, and a team of hard-running midfielders Nottingham just keep getting the job done. The Scorpions will be hoping Manchester drop a game before the finals so they can secure top spot. Nottingham take on the Mozzies next round so they’ll have the perfect opportunity.
With a young squad Sheffield have at times struggled this year as their less-experienced players have struggled to make an impact at this level. This round showed the hard work is starting to pay off with Sheffield recording two huge wins led larger by the efforts of their first and second year players.
A first-up win against Leeds was satisfying for them given that they held Leeds goalless. The second games against a quality Huddersfield side showed the true class of the Thunder. Aussie Rules is a team sport but sometimes an individual performance stands out above the rest. Mick Kay’s 8 goals against the Rams was surely the best game by an individual all season.
Up until this round it looked to be a two-horse race for the AFL CNE premiership but after what we saw this week Sheffield are now a true contender for the title. This adds spice to the final few rounds as Nottingham and Manchester will be doing all they can to avoid second place and a potential final against the Thunder.
The Wolves saw both ends of the spectrum in Round 7, coming up against an undermanned Leeds, then taking on a full strength Manchester.
A strong team performance, especially out of defence, gave the Wolves a 5 goal win over the Minotaurs.
Having not played the Mozzies up until now it was a great test for Wolverhampton to see where they were at. Unfortunately for the Wolves, Manchester played possibly their best game of the season and won by 80 points.
Wolverhampton will be be looking to next round’s lightning day at Huddersfield. If they can win their games against the Bears and the Rams they look odds-on favourites to take the last finals berth. If they lose either then the race is wide open again.
On the super boot table Manchester forwards Tazz McAlister and Matt Wielgosz are level on 32 goals apiece. Dave Scarsella is 7 goals back. Mick Kay was the big mover with 11 goals in the lightning round. With Manchester still to have the bye in Round 10 the leading goalkicker race is far from over.
There are no games this week as the England Dragonslayers are in Italy taking on the host nation, Scotland and Croatia for the 4 Nations Cup.
Next week is the Brit Cup with the Central and Northern League providing two teams who will be fighting to show they are the best in the continent.
AFL CNE returns in Round 8 at Huddersfield on the 14th of July for the third League Lightning Round. Keep an eye out for updates on AFLCNE.com before then.